Sports Illustrated name 34-year-old Serena Williams its Sportsperson of the year for 2015. It is the first time they have named a female to the honour since track star Mary Decker won the award in 1983.
Williams came within two matches of achieving the calendar-year Grand Slam since Stefi Graf in 1988. Serena won the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon before losing in the semifinal of the U.S. Open. She was the number one ranked female player all season in the WTA rankings, compiling 53 victories in 58 matches.
This is the first time that Sports Illustrated has used the name Sportsperson of the Year. They previously separated the award by gender with a Sportsman or Sportswoman designation.
Previous female winners of the award were the U.S. women’s national soccer team in 1999, Olympic speed skater Bonnie Blair of America in 1994, with the award being shared with speed skater Johan Olav Koss of Norway, and American gymnast Mary Lou Retton in 1984, along with American sprinter Edwin Moses.
The editor of Sports Illustrated Group, Paul Fictenbaum, attributed the recent rise in the popularity of women’s sports with an increased focus on those athletes and their achievements for the decision to move beyond having separate awards based on gender.